This week could be a milestone for transgender rights in Australia, if footballer Hannah Mouncey gets picked by a team to play in the Australian Women’s Football League.
Mouncey was nominated on Friday, but she still has not been confirmed as eligible ahead of Wednesday’s draft.
After playing for the Ainslie Tricolours this past season in the AFL Canberra women’s competition, Mouncey now wants to be the first transgender woman in the country to play in the elite league.
In 2016, Mouncey played for the Australian Men’s Handball team, that missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics.
She began transition shortly after, and on top of her professional goals, hopes she can help work towards awareness and promotion of gender diversity in sport.
She said she had overwhelmingly positive support when she came out, and has linked up with a Sydney group called Pride in Sport, in the hope of showing other transgender athletes what is possible.
“I know I’m different and not necessarily in a good way or bad way, but I know I am going to be seen differently,” she told the Brisbane Times.
She hopes people will judge her based on her talent rather than being transgender, but understand that if people are interested in her gender identity then “that is what it is.”
“I’m just keen to play and hopefully I get picked up and whatever happens outside that isn’t something I can control.”
At 6-foot2 and over 15 stone, Mouncey says her size is a concern in the game, but she doesn’t feel she should have to hold back from playing her best as “that defeats the whole purpose.”
“I had my ribs broken in my last game so I know they can hit me as hard as I can hit them and do damage,” she said.
The rules of the AFLW are the same regulations as the International Olympic Committee, that an athlete must have testosterone levels of below 10 nanomoles per litre, a requirement Mouncey comfortably meets at almost a hundred times under the boundary level.
Some argue that, as Hannah already qualified to play in the AFL-sanctioned Canberra league, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to play at the elite level.
“They test for testosterone levels and she comes in below so she is right to play,” Chris Rourke, the Ainslie men’s coach, said.
“It’s a different world from when I grew up but it’s fantastic for footy and I hope she’s allowed to play and gets drafted. We’re wishing her all the best here at Ainslie FC.”
Cate McGregor, one of the most well-known transgender spokespeople in Australia, came out today in support of Mouncey, and has warned that the AFl may run into legal issues around discrimination if they refuse her.
She said it comes down to whether Mouncey is good enough to play, and her being transgender should not be a factor.
“It’s just who she is, she can’t unlearn the conditioning she had at the formative periods of her career which do give her a slight competitive advantage,” she said.
“But the bottom analysis is sport is tough on standards and if a coach sees her and thinks, ‘she can win me matches’, then they’ll pick her.”
McGregor also pointed out, that after recently pledging their support for same-sex marriage, denying Mouncey eligibility would make the AFL look extremely bad.
McGregor’s biggest concern is for the negative response Mouncey may face, after the online hate McGregor herself has faced.
“It shocked me and I didn’t expect the viciousness of people, I’d tell Hannah to stay off social media and read nothing about herself because it really rocked me,” she said.
However Mouncey seems ready to take the backlash in her stride.
“I can’t control that and to be honest I’ve probably seen and heard everything you possibly can in the negative sense, so that’s not going to hold any fears for me,” she said.